Are we there Yet: Is Open Source Gamification Enterprise Ready?
Gamification is becoming ubiquitous. It’s used in healthcare apps, social networking sites, and is considered a boon to any eLearning application for any age. It is doing well in the enterprise too; although it has descended from the top of hype cycle (where it was in 2012), demand in 2015 is healthy. Enterprise gamification has come of age.
Enterprise gamification – the use of gamification at work, mostly for transactional workers – involves using gamification elements to grow employee engagement, drive the adoption of software and new employee behaviors and improve performance as a result.
Whilst originally stamping a badge on top of an “accomplishment” or including a leaderboard was considered enough gamification to qualify, today it doesn’t always pass the mark. Foursquare’s evolution is proof.
As the understanding of gamification evolves, the market is looking at more complex gamification implementations, including the use of narratives in gamification. These aren’t done with the goal of complexity per-se, but because there is a widespread recognition that gamification should go beyond simplistic PBL (Points. Badges, Leaderboards) and evolve into science-based program that can create a sustainable and long-term ROI for the business, altering employee behavior by tapping into employees’ motivations and knowledge base.
Can’t you just use open source gamification in the enterprise?
I see this question often – as in “I would like to add badges to my platform/system/enterprise app”.
Regardless of the question whether open-source is enterprise-ready or not (some of it is, some isn’t), I think this raises some interesting questions about whether a PBL system, or any system that allows you to stick gamification elements onto an enterprise app, works. This touches both on the practicalities of using gamification in the enterprise and on some must-have features gamification needs.
It’s always about several (or many) key performance indicators (and apps), not just one.
The essence of gamification is the real-time measurement and feedback of performance. The idea isn’t to measure one simplistic element (such as $$ sales) but many elements that constitute the habits one wants to instill in the workforce. Good employee performance is a function of many factors, such as (in the customer service case) – first call resolution, use of the knowledge based, average handling time and more. Measurement isn’t done for the sake of measurement. It really is used both to state what’s important, to set a transparent and fair metric for performance and for immediate feedback, so employees can correct their course. (it isn’t about competition).
We’ve found that the use of open source platforms is sometimes lacking in the ability to track and measure more than very few metrics. Also, keep in mind that many enterprise environments include several systems, whose data should all be integrated into the gamification system.
Additionally, good gamification in the enterprise always includes a good dose of learning – if the employee didn’t do well you can always expose him to morsels of learning (micro-learning) – and get better results overall.
Design and game rules matter
Gamification drives real results, but it needs good game design and the right game rules to be set in advance. Game rules set what can be achieved, whether the drivers are individual achievements or team performance, what learning is required etc. There is no one size fits all; that’s why we deliver our games using our success squad.
There is a caveat here too: if game rules provide the wrong incentives, adverse consequences can happen.
Gamification needs tuning
One of the most interesting things we’ve heard about gamification lately was from the experience of Vikram Subramaniam, who was VP Customer Experience at Yahoo!
What he told us was that when implementing gamification he tuned game rules – like dials – to get the right change management results. Open source gamification therefore doesn’t only need to support many metrics and rules; the way these elements interact should be tunable.
Analytics and optimization
Once game rules are established and the game is launched (we recommend thinking about communicating with employees to increase gamification adoption – see examples here and here) it needs to be optimized. You can’t avoid this step. Whatever game designers had in mind, real time employee behavior is different, and the resulting behavioral results need tuning. Tuning and optimization require analytics.
Open Source Gamification – a Conclusion?
I’ve listed some of the realities of enterprise gamification. I’m not sure all of them can and do work within the open source context. The main point to take from here is that enterprise gamification is about strategic change and performance management. The question isn’t about the technology that counts achievements and gives points or badges. The question is one of essence.